Mr. Sims appeared in front of Judge O’Callahan in a Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago off of Dearborn as I recall. We both had cases to be heard at the 1:00 court call. His would be the first case called and mine the last called at 5 minutes to 5:00.
Judge O’Callahan was a stout, plump man with a ruddy complexion and a flock of gray hair. He resembled W.C. Fields, but was not nearly as funny.
Mr. Sims appeared in front of the judge wearing torn blue jeans and a torn Metallica T-shirt that appeared to be from the 1988 Monsters of Rock concert which I happened to also attend that featured Van Halen promoting OU812, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.
Mr. Sims, the judge claimed, was accused of underage drinking in a stolen vehicle with expired plates without a valid drivers license and possession of marijuana in same stolen vehicle. He was arrested in one of the many forest preserves in and around the city and was picked up by an officer charged with patrolling these areas.
When asked how he plead to the charges Mr. Sims calmly responded “not guilty”. The judge pushed his file aside and calmly responded back, “have a seat Mr. Sims, we will deal with you later”. Mr. Sims did as he was told. About an hour and 25 cases later, his name was called again.
This time he was charged with underage drinking in a different stolen vehicle with different expired plates and the same invalid drivers license in the same forest preserve by the same officer 3 days later after the first arrest.
When asked again how he plead to the charges he claimed “not guilty”.
Judge O’Callahan proceeded to read both files again and warned him that if found guilty without a plea to the same he could spend 30 days in Cook County Jail. He asked him again for a plea and Mr. Sims remained steadfast in his plea of not guilty.
At this point Judge O’Callahan stood up from the bench, leaned over as far as he could, his face as red as a beet and started yelling “Mr. Sims, do you think just because I am wearing this black robe I fell off the tomato cart yesterday. Mr. Sims, do you know what could happen to you in Cook County Jail over 30 days?” He continued, his face getting redder, looking like it might blow up with re-reading the charges over 3 days on 2 separate incidents and asked him again “Mr. Sims how do you plead?” At this point Mr. Sims pleaded “guilty” very meekly while he was staring at the floor. The judge calmly took his seat and offered Mr. Sims 1000 hours of community service with the Cook County Sheriffs Work Assistance Program.
My turn came a few hours later to plead my case. A few weeks earlier I left my apartment downtown with nothing more than a pair of shorts, a fishing pole, few silver spoons for luring fish on my bike headed for Lincoln Park Lagoon in hopes of getting some salmon. My family medicine preceptor released us early on this warm May day to “have some fun”. Fourth year of medical school was around the corner.
Within about 30 casts and 10 minutes I was stopped by a forest preserve officer who asked me for my fishing license which I owned but did not have on my person. This was the same officer who would also meet Mr. Sims in about a week. The officer handed me a ticket for $75 for not having my $12 fishing license but said if I presented the license in court, the fine would be removed minus 20 bucks in court costs. It was worth the time to do so or so I thought.
When my name was called the judge asked if I had my fishing license which of course I did and waived the ticket with $20 in court costs payable to the clerk. It was an entertaining afternoon but it wasn’t quite over yet.
Since I had been in court for 4 hours watching the Mr. Sims and Judge O’Callahan drama, my parking meter had expired and I was greeted by a $100 parking ticket on my windshield.
So, instead of just having a $12 fishing license in the pocket of my shorts, the ordeal cost me $120 and an afternoon. I paid the fine on the spot wondering what would become of Mr. Sims.
The first two weeks was the usual sort of cases, gunshots, stabbings, people who fell on the El tracks after a night of drinking, suicides, etc…Whatever interest I had in forensic pathology faded after this experience but I appreciated the work the office, its pathologists and investigators did.
The following week happened to coincide with what became known as The Heat Wave of 1995 during the third week of July. When it was all said and done and epidemiologists and researchers dissected what happened, more than 700 deaths in the City of Chicago during a few days in July of 1995 were attributed to an unusual weather pattern that plagued the city as well as other cities that summer.
People assigned to the Cook County Sheriffs Work Assistance Program were assigned to the morgue to assist with the tragedy and who happened to be standing next to me at the morning brief on July 13, 1995 was none other than Mr. Sims.